Only These Kinds of People Will Buy Nomination Forms for N100m by Farooq A. Kperogi
There is an unexampled swarming of the presidential nomination arena by a motley crowd of wannabes. One argument for this is that Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo have been such dreadful catastrophes as “president” and “vice president” that all that anyone who succeeds them has to do to impress Nigerians is to just be marginally better than they are, which doesn’t take a lot. I’ll come back to this point later.
Well, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) increased its presidential nomination fees to N100 million (up from N45 million in 2019 and N27.5 million in 2015), people thought it would thin out the crowd of contestants. But it appears to be doing the opposite. Both the wheat and the chaff—mostly the chaff—now litter the presidential nomination field.
So, what kinds of people would pay a non-refundable fee of N100 million just for a chance to run for the primary election of a political party in which victory isn’t guaranteed, in which a snowball has a better chance of surviving in hell than them winning? I can identify at least four kinds of people.
The first are overly bullish political investors. These are people who see politics as an investment and who are unrealistically overconfident that their investment will yield bountiful returns. For them, political office isn’t an opportunity for service; it’s a doorway to immense personal enrichment.
Many of the presidential wannabes in the major political parties don’t expect to win their party’s nomination. They are simply ploughing back some of the money they stole from the government into long-shot presidential contests as down payments for ministerial positions or other “juicy” appointments from whoever emerges as the president in their political party.
Even if their party doesn’t win the presidential election, nothing is lost because the money didn’t come from their hard work. Plus, politicians are a special breed of hopeless optimists. They see victory even in the menacing jaws of defeat.
This is the logical graduation of a new kind of elite corruption that the Buhari regime birthed in the last few years. No appointment is now merit-driven. From ministerial appointments down to janitorial personnel in the federal civil service, everything is lubricated by bribes.
In a December 17, 2019, article titled “Ministership for Sale: Up to N2.5b Per Slot,” I disclosed that “Four different, dependable, and independent sources who don’t know each other but who’re close to the corridors of power were eerily united in telling me that except for a few ministerial nominations (notably those of Adamu Adamu, Ali Isa Pantami, Mohammed Musa Bello, Raji Fashola whom Buhari himself personally penciled— and those that were conceded to Tinubu) every other post was literally auctioned off to the highest bidder.”
That’s why there are no apolitical “technocrats” in the Buhari cabinet like there used to be in previous administrations. No honest, hardworking, and self-respecting professional would leave their day job and give financial inducement to a cabal of Aso Rock thieves just to be appointed a minister.
Since Buhari and Osinbajo have officially made governance a raucous, in-your-face, no-consequence stealing bazaar, people understand the presidential nomination fees as deposits for a chance to steal with impunity from 2023 onwards. So, it’s a grand political pay-to-play scam.
The second kinds of people who would pay a N100 million nomination fee without seeing it as an investment from which they’ll reap hefty rewards later are rich drug addicts who are trapped in a state of hyper-arousal
dissociation, who live in a drugged and drunken alternate universe.
Who knows if that is why Buba Marwa, the chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA,) wrote to APC on April 27 asking to be allowed to conduct mandatory drug tests on the plethora of presidential aspirants that are crowding the party’s platform?
Premium Times reported Marwa to have said that he would send a similar letter to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and to other political parties because “Nigeria requires a mentally stable set of leaders to pilot its affairs.”
Like the rest of us, the NDLEA boss must have reasoned that only drug-induced megalomania can inspire some of these aspirants to think they can be president of a complex country like Nigeria that Buhari and Osinbajo have almost destroyed beyond recognition.
I can bet my bottom dollar that several of these delusional presidential wannabes, whom we all know, will fail a drug test, which is why the idea of a drug test will die a natural death.
The third kind of people who will shell out N100 million to buy a presidential nomination form without expectation of dubious rewards in the future are mentally unhinged individuals with lots of stolen money to throw away.
Many of them are obviously psychotic. Psychosis is defined as a “severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted.” For example, anyone who genuinely believes that God spoke to him and urged him to run for office is demonstrably psychotic.
I expect the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), in conjunction with the Association of Psychiatric Nurses of Nigeria (APNON), to ask to be allowed to conduct mental health examinations on presidential aspirants. It would be a valid and justified request because there are many undiagnosed psychiatric patients running for office right now.
The fourth group of people who would purchase a N100 million nomination form even if they are political nonentities are political gamblers, that is, corruptly rich, recklessly wasteful risk takers who don’t fear financial loss because they are animated by a desperate hope for gain or just a frisson of excitement.
Of course, my list doesn’t include people who, because of their networks, political pedigree, proximity to power, etc. are within striking distance of winning their party’s nomination and possibly winning the national election. But among such people are easy glory seekers who want to take advantage of the Buhari/Osinbajo unprecedented failure to shine.
As I pointed out in a February 3, 2018, column titled “How Buhari Has Lowered the Bar of Governance,” it would take the littlest of efforts for Buhari’s successor to impress Nigerians because the Buhari regime went from lowering the bar of governance to throwing the entire bar away.
So, because it took Buhari and Osinbajo six months (actually eight months if you consider that they were elected two months before they were inaugurated) to constitute a familiar, predictable cast of underwhelming characters as ministers, any administration that appoints ministers in the first month of being in power would be celebrated.
Because Buhari is habitually unconcerned and indifferent in the face of heartrending national tragedies, any president who shows just a little bit of emotion through sympathy visits and national broadcasts would win hearts and minds.
Because Buhari never fires anyone who underperforms, any president that fires incompetent people, especially in the security sector, would be praised as proactive and sensitive.
Governing boards of government agencies are the engines of governance. It took Buhari and Osinbajo nearly three years to constitute governing board members, which was why I characterized their administration as an example of “ungovernance.” Even when they did, they appointed dead people and people who weren’t consulted before their appointments.
Any president who appoints members of governing boards of government agencies in the first few months of being in power would be hailed as a miracle worker in governance.
These are just a few examples. But this is really distressing because there is much more at stake in the task of governing Nigeria than just transcending Buhari’s incompetence and mediocrity.
Africa’s ‘kill the gays’ laws may be good for its nation-building and economic recovery, By Charles Onyango-Obbo
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, at the start of the week, signed into law the world’s harshest anti-LGBTIQA+ bill. Dubbed by critics the “Kill the Gays” law, it imposes the death penalty or life imprisonment for certain same-sex acts, up to 20 years in prison for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities,” and the death penalty for “attempted aggravated homosexuality.”
Uganda joins just a handful of countries in the world penalising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual (LGBTIQA+) people with death: Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Mauritania, and Somalia.
A key force behind the “Kill the Gays” bill is conservative Ugandan cultural and Christian groups in alliance with American fundamentalist churches. Their success has been spectacular, because Uganda becomes the first majority “Christian country” that has a law that specifies hanging and life imprisonment for some homosexual acts.
The “Kill the Gays” law might be shocking in its cruelty, but it is made possible by the high levels of homophobia in the country. Some polls have put opposition to homosexuality at over 90 per cent. This is strange because, in Uganda, there is a near epidemic of rape and defilement of children by heterosexual men and virtually no attacks by homosexuals.
This tells us that, like in other countries like Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, where homophobia is on a new spike, this is not about the threat paused by homosexuality. It is, first and ironically, about the terror of what the cultural and political establishments view as heterosexual deviance.
It is expressed in homophobia, which they consider an even worse form of deviance because of more hate and widespread fear of it. Because of that, it is a significant and cheap bipartisan issue that governments facing risky legitimacy crises can’t resist tapping into. In fact, they need it.
This is bigger than Uganda. If one looks ahead, the news is not good – a decade of virulent homophobia and “kill the gays” laws is coming to Africa.
It is possible to see where that wave will be highest. It will be in countries failing to manage their debt and other economic crises and where elite factionalism is high — like Ghana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and possibly Kenya. It will be mild or non-existent in countries not in debt peril (or where governments can pay it) or dire economic straits, including Botswana, Benin, Madagascar and Eswatini.
A big part of this homophobia is a response to a changing world and the fear by the old, cultural and political guardians of what they see ahead. These guardians rightly view sexual liberation and other new forms of expression as central to the new subversive order.
Not only are young Africans on a rampage of free sex that they post on their social media pages, but there are also many of them who are not doing it; they are abstaining, getting married late or not at all, or choosing single motherhood (African men today are unworthy, too many young women claim).
There is also a growing army of something the elders don’t understand; African men who don’t want to settle down or be fathers. Some of these young men have grandfathers who are still alive and grew up in a time when they thought it was their duty to make every young woman in their village or street pregnant, and where the only serious men were polygamists.
Their betrayal is too much.
As if that wasn’t enough, there has been an outbreak of what the traditionalists describe as “uncontrollable” and “ungovernable” African women all over the place. They bow to no man (choose which one they will date long-term or sleep with for a one-night stand), have their own money and careers, and dare go out in groups and buy their own drinks.
And many African women are bisexual.
Looking at all this, the guardians think the Devil is using homosexuality to bring the collective African nation down. Criminalising gay sex, to them, the most permissive form of social liberation and “Western cultural imperialism,” and shepherding the “lost sheep” back into the fold so they can produce more children to keep society strong — as their parents and grandparents did — is a strategic and national security imperative.
Therefore, the homophobic national consensus in many countries will be an important basis for nation-building and economic recovery on the continent for a while. It will get louder and nastier.
One could even argue that it would be concerning if “kill the gays” laws like Uganda’s didn’t come to pass. It would have suggested that there was no social transformation and disruption of the old world. Or at least not enough to worry the elders.
Uganda’s anti-gay war is part of a broader proxy war, over easily the most far-reaching social and cultural transformation in Africa of the post-independence era. Great wars are made great by the stories of their heroes, and world-changing causes need martyrs.
Ugandan prisons full of people who were jailed because they wore rainbow T-shirts or were consenting adult men who kissed each other on the cheeks in their living room but were seen by a nosy peeping Tom neighbour who reported them to the police might be the cast of heroes and martyrs it needs.
They could be the bricks with which a future free society beyond the suffocating one the ruling National Resistance Movement has imposed on it for nearly 40 years is built.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3
In defence of fuel subsidy in Nigeria, By Chidi Chinedu
This argument is for the people.
There is now a near-unanimous rejection of the petrol subsidy regime in Nigeria. This is now the popular position. I fear that with the deification of this position, some valid arguments in favour of petrol subsidy within Nigeria’s unique socio-economic context are being denied oxygen, with grave, even existential, threat to the people. To surrender the argument to a government uninterested in ending its imperial status— with all its attendant costs— and an egotistic liberal economic elite buoyed by affirmations within its intellectual bubble, and determined to test the furthest free market theories on the already pulverized masses, is a position I cannot accept.
There has been a growing socio-economic inattentional blindness among Nigeria’s ruling and liberal economic intellectual elite regarding the petrol subsidy issue. They have almost entirely embraced the Bretton Woods position on the petrol subsidy expenditure which isolates it as a drain on national resources, costing the country multiple other development opportunities. This position is flawed, I reckon. In Nigeria, isolating fuel subsidy as a purely wasteful consumption spend is an error. Within the context of Nigeria’s energy crisis, inflation surge, purchasing power squeeze, and general cost of production challenges, petrol subsidy cannot be so rightly isolated.
Caution and contemplation are key in this debate. Scholarly tentativeness and intellectual humility are paramount. One ideological strand in economics cannot be gospel. It cannot be unchallengeable. It cannot be treated as an absolute truth. Our pro-subsidy removal economists (who also champion free float of the currency and other free market reforms) must be realistic enough to recognize that economics is not an exact science. An economic proposal, more often than not, cannot solely determine its own destiny; it depends on some other variables. It is only this realization that will allow for expanded thinking and pragmatic, as against ideological, propositions. I reckon that what has become the subsidy conundrum has a hybrid solution, not an entirely free market solution, given the peculiarities of Context Nigeria.
The fuel subsidy regime does not exist in isolation. In Nigeria, it is simplistic, even inaccurate, to suggest that petrol subsidy is merely subsidizing consumption (not that it is entirely indefensible to argue for subsidy on consumption); it is subsidizing production as well. The Nigerian subsidy story is different. The Nigerian context strips some of the general oft-repeated theoretical principles against subsidy, like “don’t subsidize consumption”, “it is the rich that are being subsidized” and “government needs the money to drive development” of their force of truth; I will explain.
“In Nigeria, petrol subsidy is a purchasing power argument. It is a production argument. It is a local economy energizer argument. It is not merely a consumption argument”.
Regarding production and energizing of local economies, petrol subsidy within the context of Nigeria’s energy crisis provides useful insights. According to the World Bank, 85 million Nigerians (43% of the population) do not have access to grid electricity, representing the largest energy access deficit globally.
To survive the grid energy exclusion, individuals, households and businesses resort to reliance on generators. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), generators powered by petrol, diesel and gas provide 48.6 percent of the electricity consumed by power users across the country. Of this figure, petrol-powered generators account for the bulk of the share, at 22.6 percent.
Overall, an estimated 60 million people use generators to provide electricity for their homes and businesses. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA), 84% of urban households use backup power supply systems such as fossil diesel/ gasoline generators, while 86% of the companies in Nigeria own or share a generator, making Nigeria the highest importer of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and diesel generators in Africa as of 2022.
“Nigerian households and businesses spend an estimated $22 billion annually to fuel generators powering their homes and business”.
The June 2022 report by Stears and Sterling, titled, “Nigeria’s State of Power: Electrifying the Nation’s Economy,” provides some useful insights. It reveals that:
“Over 40 per cent of Nigerian households own generators, and bear the associated costs. First, the cost of purchasing generators – an estimated $500m between 2015 and 2019, higher than the proposed capital expenditure in Nigeria’s 2022 budget.
“There is also the cost of powering these generators. Sources and estimates vary widely, but the African Development Bank estimated that Nigerians spend $14bn fuelling petrol or diesel powered generators.
“While PMS (Premium Motor Spirit) or petrol prices have been kept artificially low for the consumers through subsidies, variations in AGO (Automotive Gas Oil) or diesel prices can have a severe impact on households and businesses as Nigerians are currently experiencing.”
There is telling data from the report on how the largely stable price of petrol due to the subsidy regime helps small businesses survive. “These prices make the small petrol generators more attractive to households and MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises)”, the report stated.
“It is estimated that…In countries with low electricity reliability, the proportion of SMEs using a generator is higher, reaching 86 per cent in Nigeria.”
I have taken pains to show how inextricably linked access to electricity is to petrol subsidy because this point is hardly stated by anti-subsidy advocates. Only recently, the NNPC boss, Mele Kyari, in defending the removal of subsidy, said the country was mostly subsidizing the rich. He, like others, uses car-ownership status as one key measure of ‘the rich’. I’ve always found this argument puzzling. The number of small commercial vehicles relying on petrol belongs to the rich too? Millions of Nigerians relying on petrol-powered commercial vehicles because of the absence of public transportation are enjoying some subsidy luxury?
It is also curious that the argument about lack of capacity for local refining of petrol being largely responsible for the cost of subsidies is now being abandoned. The NNPC boss said the coming of Dangote refinery and eventual return of Nigeria’s refineries would not impact price of petrol significantly. So, what is being said is that the people will now be at the mercy of the markets, essentially having to deal with another heavy cost burden in the foreseeable future, within an already killing cost of living crisis. This is the new normal. An era of price hikes. The argument on how competition and market forces would swing price eventually to the consumer is a curious one too. Swing it to what range? If what has happened with the deregulated diesel and kerosene prices are anything to go by, the petrol price band will for the foreseeable future remain a menacing threat to the people’s standard of living.
The reliance of SMEs, especially, on petrol (as with owners and passengers of petrol-powered commercial vehicles) and petrol-powered generators is a counter to the argument that we are merely subsidizing consumption. SMEs within the formal and informal economies rely greatly on petrol. Removing the subsidy has just triggered an unprecedented price disruption with grave implications for these businesses and their consumers.
I have heard the argument about the unsustainability of petrol subsidy, given Nigeria’s revenue and debt crises. That’s a government argument, a convenient one. That’s not the fault of the people. If the government were serious about waste, prudence and efficiency, then a holistic reform proposal should be advanced. It must include, reining in the size of government, blocking leakages, cutting waste, fighting corruption, and ending subsidies for the actual rich.
“..the total waivers granted by the Nigerian government surpassed its total revenue by 71.3 per cent”
Speaking of subsidies for the actual rich, data from the nation’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) 2023-2025 show that Nigerian government granted waivers, incentives and exemptions worth N2.296 trillion in 2021 to different beneficiaries through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) while Customs’ total revenue collection in 2021 was only N1.34 trillion. This implies that the total waivers granted by the Nigerian government surpassed its total revenue by 71.3 per cent.
The Federal Government’s introduction of import Duty Exemption Certificate (IDEC) through the Ministry of Finance exempting critical players from payment of import duties and other statutory Customs charges has been alleged to have cost the country a whopping N16 trillion in fraudulent manipulation of the system. Some companies, individuals and other entities were alleged to have abused the system and shortchanged the Federal Government of revenue by hiding under the waiver policy to evade duty on imported goods that are dutiable.
“Senate Committee on Finance had frowned at the N6 trillion tax and import duty waivers proposed by the Nigerian government in the 2023 budget, while pushing for wastages and leakages in the nation’s public sector to be blocked”.
It helps to remember that the Senate Committee on Finance had frowned at the N6 trillion tax and import duty waivers proposed by the Nigerian government in the 2023 budget while pushing for wastages and leakages in the nation’s public sector to be blocked.
I have seen calls for interventions to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal on the people. Things like provision of public transportation and minimum wage increase have been proposed. I believe these proposals underestimate the multiplier force of petrol subsidy in Nigeria. With its removal, the price of virtually every commodity has gone up significantly. Yemi Kale, former NBS boss, estimates that the removal will take inflation to 30 percent. This is at a time the people have been battling high prices of commodities. How can limited provision of public transportation or marginal increase in minimum wage mostly for federal workers stem this system-wide disruption? There are structural issues, like electricity deficit and other cost of production issues, which put these interventions in their proper context— a dangling reed in a deserted island.
And if increase in minimum wage triggers further inflation, what value of the increase would be left? Won’t this just amount to a circular price movement— akin to taking us on a deluded journey to escape a cost of living crisis and arriving at the same point of departure ?
“how can the government which has failed to manage a subsidy regime that has inherent capacity for inclusive reach, design and manage a benefits system entirely dependent on its managerial capacity and integrity?”
Some have argued that the savings from the subsidy would be channelled to proper development priorities. This is the argument of the government as well. They seem to be arguing that the subsidy spending is a waste, a drain on national resources. While I can relate with the corruption part of the subsidy regime, I vehemently reject the dismissal of the petrol subsidy as a waste. They appear to be saying that unless we subject public expenditure to some government programme that plans the disbursement of funds and decides winners and losers, the spending is of inferior value. I reject this. This stems from unreasonable faith in the capacity of government; how can the government which has failed to manage a subsidy regime that has inherent capacity for inclusive reach, design and manage a benefits system entirely dependent on its managerial capacity and integrity?
“I believe petrol subsidy is the most direct, inclusive, impactful and far-reaching government benefits distribution system within the Nigerian context”
Contrary to this position, I believe the petrol subsidy is the most direct, inclusive, impactful and far-reaching government benefits distribution system within the Nigerian context. We have seen failed attempts at palliative distribution. The social welfare system of the Buhari administration continues to suffer credibility issues as many believe it has been neither widespread, verifiable, or inclusive.
Some have even pointed to how many hard infrastructure projects could have been executed with the monies used for subsidy payments. It is as if they are saying hard infrastructure takes precedence over human development. This is a flawed argument. There is a reason why HDI is deemed an essential measure of a country’s development. Both can, and should, be prioritized.
“In the long run, we’re all dead”.
Finally, to the economists who ask the longsuffering Nigerian masses to exercise further patience, to have faith that the government’s reforms would yield lasting fruits, and that the free market would resolve the issues in their favour in the long run, may I kindly remind them of John Maynard Keynes’ famous quote that “In the long run, we’re all dead”.
In fact, I reproduce it in full:
“But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run, we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us, that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again.”
Chinedu Chidi, public commentator, writes from Abuja, Nigeria and can be reached via email@example.com
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